US refugee advocates urge Congress to pass Afghan Adjustment Act

US refugee advocates urge Congress to pass Afghan Adjustment Act
The 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill does not include the Afghan Adjustment Act, a widely supported measure that would give Afghan refugees a pathway to permanent status in the US.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
21 December, 2022
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport. [Getty]

US refugee advocates are urging Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, after this week's release by the Senate Appropriations Committee of the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill's text did not include the measure.

The measure provides a pathway for Afghan evacuees from last year's US withdrawal to attain permanent status.

"This is about taking care of US allies and making good on promises," Adam Bates, supervisory policy counsel with the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The New Arab.

At stake are the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Afghans whose legal situations remain in limbo as they remain without a pathway to permanent status.

Though the bill does include an extension of the Special Immigrant Visa programme, the absence of the adjustment act is raising concerns for those familiar with the bureaucracy facing these evacuees.

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Refugee advocates - who include veterans - and religious organisations that help resettle the new arrivals, and politicians of both parties, worry continued delays in implementing the measure would be a strain on everyone in the long run.

"Afghans don't need another emergency in their lives," said Bates. "With the lack of the Adjustment Act, it will be a logistical nightmare. A lot of these folks will end up in the asylum proceedings. It's horribly backlogged."

Adding to an already difficult situation for Afghan evacuees is often a lack of documentation and awareness of their legal status, in large part the responsibility of the US government, says Bates.

"A lot of these folks, because of their relationships with the US, were in situations where they had to destroy documents, which will complicate their asylum process, even though it's clear they're eligible. These are hurdles they shouldn't need to go through," he said.

"Some don't even know they're under this legal uncertainty. The concern is that some could fall out of legal status and become undocumented without knowing anything is wrong," he said. "The goal of the Afghan Adjustment Act is to avoid this."